After this primary thrashing, GOP could be SOL in Olympia

Republicans in the Legislature have three months to come up with a stunning election counterpunch.

Mark Harmsworth

Mark Harmsworth

The Grand Old Party endured a good old-fashioned butt-whupping on primary night.

Now Republican leaders in the Legislature must come up with a stunning counterpunch in the next three months if they want to avoid governing in a state run by a Democratic governor and a supermajority of Democrats in the House and Senate.

Their challenge is huge.

Incumbent Republicans trailed Democratic challengers in nearly a dozen legislative districts across the state, from reliably red Spokane County to purplish parts of Snohomish and Pierce counties.

Republican Rep. Mark Harmsworth, of Mill Creek, for example, was down 10 points to Democrat Jared Mead in the initial ballot count. Fellow Republicans Dave Hayes, of Camano Island, and Paul Graves, of Fall City, were seven points back of their Democratic foes.

And Republican candidates were behind in a handful of races for seats the GOP is trying to hold onto.

Plus there are incumbents who, in spite of winning their primary, are on the endangered list.

Take Republican Sens. Doug Ericksen, of Ferndale, and Mark Miloscia, of Federal Way. They each led election night but could face trouble because the number of votes cast for their Democratic opponents exceeded 50 percent.

Add it all up and Democrats, who now hold majorities of 50-48 in the House and 25-24 in the Senate, are positioned for potentially explosive growth in November.

They could pick up 18 to 23 seats in the House and as many as five in the Senate, creating majorities large enough to move long-stalled items on the agendas of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, House Speaker Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, and Senate Democrats who will be choosing a new leader this winter.

Republican leaders can’t dwell on what transpired or what might occur — they simply have too much work ahead of them.

They will need to replenish their caches of campaign funds. Then they will have to decide which seats the caucus will defend and which ones it won’t. Republicans have no place where they can go on offense.

And most importantly, they will have to figure out how to get more of their voters engaged and turned out in November.

Turnout Aug. 7 was pretty typical for a mid-term primary. That means the blue wave that washed across the state gained strength from an abundance of Democratic voters — especially progressives — and an absence of Republican ones.

You could see the influence of progressives in places like the solidly Republican 39th District, covering rural areas of Snohomish and Skagit counties.

Their favorite, Ivan Lewis, a 29-year-old first-time candidate, garnered 48.4 percent against two Republicans in a race to replace retiring Rep. Dan Kristiansen, R-Snohomish.

You could also see the impact of a higher Democratic turnout in suburban districts, where Democratic incumbents who would have been thrilled to be a little above 50 percent found themselves approaching or breaking 60 percent.

Sen. Steve Hobbs, of Lake Stevens, had 57 percent in spite of an onslaught of attack ads funded by Senate Republicans. Sen. Patty Kuderer, of Bellevue, garnered 59.3 percent while her chief foe, former lawmaker Rodney Tom, had 29.8 percent. Outside groups spent hundreds of thousands of dollars pumping up and tearing down those two candidates.

Even as more ballots are counted in the coming days, those two races are among those that look to be out of reach for Republicans.

That’s the price they pay for the whupping they took.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald net.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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